Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Home (Part 2)

Part of calling a place a home is not just the house that we stay in, but also the places nearby that we regularly go to. I'm referring to places like the church, hairdresser/barber, kopi tiam, etc that give us a sense of belonging to the place.

When we moved to Puchong almost 5 years ago, my wife and I had stayed in PJ for more than 7 years, and it took us quite a while to switch to the equivalent places in Puchong.

Our hairdresser in PJ was this chatty lady from Penang who loved to talk about everything under the sun, and all her customers seem to know her well. She used to boast that people still drove all the way to Section 17 to look for her long after they have moved. Well, we were one of those people, until a few years ago :)

SS2 and Sea Park being food paradises, we still had our dinners and even our weekend lunches and breakfasts in PJ until Cynthia was born. The stall owners at Chow Yang (now Lim Mee Yoke) used to remember what I like, and often I even automatically get served my usual drink (teh o ice) whenever I go there.

Alas, in Puchong most coffeeshops and stalls are run by foreigners, so there is no sense of belonging to speak of.

Even for pasar malam, we still went to the Thursday Chow Yang one. The usual routine was - get the fishballs and siew mai from the Hokkien auntie in front of OK restaurant, followed by jagung, then paper wrapped chicken, then Anson chee cheong fun, and finally the peanut kuih. I remember all the stalls so well that I could recognize which stalls moved or didn't turn up.

We now go to the Saturday one at Kampung Baru Puchong which, although a bit dirtier, also had a good selection of comfort food.

The only holdout until today is the PJ church we go to. Somehow, the Puchong church just didn't click and we continue to make the 25 km journey to PJ every Sunday.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sorry Is The Hardest Word

If there's anything harder than saying sorry, it's saying sorry and actually meaning it. By meaning it, I'm referring to saying sorry and actually changing for the better.

I came to this conclusion recently after following two tv shows this year that illustrate the point well. In Californication David Duchovny portrayed Hank Moody as a brilliant and funny but flawed writer who never seemed to be able to get his act together. Despite the love of a 12 year old daughter and the care of good friends who stood by him through thick and thin, Hank was never able to overcome himself. Particularly heartbreaking was one episode when his daughter could not hide her disappointment at being let down yet again, and told him in no uncertain terms that one day she's not going to care anymore. The episode ended with Hank lamenting that he needed to change, but at the same having no clue at all where to start.

Side note : Californication is quite blasphemous in certain episodes, and the show is generally quite profane and pushes the envelope on just about everything. Be warned.

The other show was House MD Season 3. Time and again House realises the pain he causes to people around him, but like Hank Moody, he seemed incapable of doing anything about it. House thrived on living in denial, self pity and avoiding the truth, and on certain episodes in Season 3 he is forced to face his real self. Particularly memorable was the episode where a rape victim chose to connect with him, and for once, House found his humanity again. Also outstanding were the episodes related to a policeman's attempts to prosecute him for drug abuse - House fell into a spiral of hurting more and more people as he refused to give up his addiction to painkillers.

But like Hank Moody, although House was able to on occasion say sorry, nothing changed.

We may gape with a mixture of fascination and wonder at the antics of these two man-childs, but we probably fail to realize that quite often, we are just like them, too.

Personally, I also feel quite mortified that often, I am no better than Hank or House in atoning for my actions.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Home (Part 1)

In a few months, it will be five years since I moved into my house in Puchong. This would be the longest I've ever stayed in a single place since I left Sibu in December 1988. Prior to leaving home I had stayed in Sibu for 8 years.

I went to study in KL in 1989, and rented a room in SS18 Subang Jaya from a couple. You should see Subang Jaya in those days - there was hardly any traffic and I used to walk to the college in the morning. Evenings were usually spent at the mamak stall in SS14. Unbelievably, roti canai used to cost 40 sen then.

I was back in Sibu again for 4 months before I went study in PJ, where I rented a room in Section 6 from an Indian family. They had a dog who still failed to recognize me even after I stayed there for more than a year.

I was then in Belfast for 4 years, during which I stayed in the uni hostel for 2 years, then apartment, then hostel again.

So, up to this point, from the 1988 my abodes went something like this:

Subang Jaya SS18/4 rented room (11 months)
Sibu (4 months)
PJ Section 6 rented room (14 months)
Sibu (3 months)
Belfast Hamilton Hall (9 months)
Sibu (3 months)
Belfast Sir Rowland Wright Hall (9 months)
Belfast Rugby Avenue (14 months)
Sibu (1 month)
Belfast Hamilton Hall (9 months)
Ballynahinch Chinese Restaurant (6 months)

When I came back to KL, I foolishly shipped almost all my stuff back from Belfast. Imagine dragging all those boxes through the following:-

Stephen Chung's House in Taman Supreme, KL (2 months)
Rented room in PJ Section 10 (5 months)
House in PJ Section 14 (1 month)

After that, together with my two brothers and a couple of other friends we found this place in PJ SS2/18 to call home for 4 and a half years. I then shifted to SS2/10 for another 2.5 years. After I got married, I stayed in PJ Section 17 for 5 months.

So, finally in February 2003, I moved to my current house in Puchong. 7 years after I left Belfast, I finally got to unpack my boxes from Belfast and put the stuff in my study room.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Reusable Shopping Bags

I was in Tesco Puchong a month ago, when I noticed that they were selling reusable shopping bags. The deal goes something like this - you buy a bag for RM 0.99, and you're supposed to use it for your future shopping at Tesco's instead of the usual plastic bags. When the bag gets damaged, you can actually get it exchanged for a new one, at no cost. Better yet, you can keep doing so for life!

I was quite excited and immediately bought one. My wife was not too keen, though. What are you gonna use to store the baby's diapers soiled with poo poo and for your dustbin linings, she asked. She had a point, we do reuse the normal plastic bags to store trash. But I reasoned with her that we don't usually use that many, if we can reduce our use of plastic bags we could make our own little difference to the environment.

Anyway, the first time I used it, I got curious stares. An elderly couple behind me in the queue asked me about it. The funniest thing was, the cashier totally ignored it and proceeded to put my groceries in the usual plastic bags. When I told her I wanted them in the reusable bag instead, she looked confused for a second, then obliged. I guess Tesco had not trained their staff yet on the bag.

Unfortunately, so far that was the last time I used it. I leave it on a shelf near the front door, but invariably I'll forget to grab it whenever I go shopping. Now I am planning to leave it in the car. Hopefully, I'll remember to grab it when I get out of the car at Tesco! :) I guess new habits need to be formed in order to use the bag effectively, which is why although I do see some people buying those bags, I seldom see them actually being used.

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